Sunday, 16 October 2011

The first cut is the deepest

I don't know who said it, but they were wrong. And also kinda right.

This week has been my first week on attached to a surgical firm at St Clabert's and it's been a reminder of what I know and what I don't.

The first point of call was that, until this week, I'd never been further than the anaesthetics room in theatres (other than as a patient). In ward life you know of theatre people and maybe have the occasional tussle in recovery, generally about how you're not taking the patient who is groaning in pain and who's BP is in their boots back to the ward. But I'd never before donned scrubs, clogs and a hat and walked into theatre. It is a strange, controlled, precise place compared to the ward. It was refreshing to experience this change of pace and bear witness to a kind of calm teamwork that I've not seen much of before now.

And the first cut. I realised, when I saw the scalpel go in, that I had never seen this happen before, either. Don't misunderstand, I've assisted in plenty of drain insertions, ascitic taps, biopsies, endoscopies et al, but never seen a person cleaned, draped and then surgically incised. It was amazing. I didn't expect it to be a notable experience, but it left me literally agape (and then when I realised, quickly stoical - I mean, no-one wants to look like a noob in theatre).

This week has quickly taken me out of my comfort zone as anatomy is one of my weaker points and being quizzed about specific muscles and their attachments and insertions and innervations and (god forbid) arterial supply or venous drainage is just awful for me. I've had to claim ignorance and face disapproval more this week than my ego is frankly comfortable with and had to accept I really need to spend more time with Netter if I want to get the most out of this placement.

The high points have (unsurprisingly) been history-taking, clerking, examinations and ward life (both pre-op and post-op). I fully expected this to be the case, given my previous life. I love being on a ward, talking to patients, sitting with them to take a history, busting out the stethoscope, percussing, palpating, the whole nine yards. Which I guess says something about my medical bent.

So far this has been a good placement and I have several weeks to go, so more time to get comfortable in theatre, maybe even scrub in and hold a retractor or two, more time to get my muscles and nerves straight in my head, more time to reinforce the ward skills I have brought with me.

Now if you'll excuse me I have an important meeting with the intrinsic muscles of the hand...

Thursday, 6 October 2011


KinnieSliemaFizzeeA church in SliemaSliema by duskPink flowers
The Blue LagoonCactusThe sea around CominoComino public transportMore pink flowersThistles
Gecko on a rockSea Green

Malta, a set on Flickr.
Part 1

Jobs is dead

Steve Jobs for Fortune magazine

*iPhone rings*
Mrs AB:"Hey, did I wake you?"
Me: "Nah, just coming to."
"Steve Jobs is dead"
"Steve Jobs is dead"
"He's dead"
"Jesus. Well, he did have pancreatic cancer, I guess."
"Yeah, but y'know, 56."
"Yeah. Wow."

The world has lost someone who did something amazing and had so much more to offer :(

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Getting hands on

Mr. McGuire: I just want to say one word to you. Just one word. 
Benjamin: Yes, sir. 
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening? 
Benjamin: Yes, I am. 
Mr. McGuire: Plastics. 
Benjamin: Exactly how do you mean? 

So we've had six weeks of PBL tutorials, statistics and communications seminars and clinical skills sessions and now, like so many baby birds, we're being let lose from the nest lecture theatre to fend for ourselves. For a bit.

My first rotation is 6 weeks of plastic surgery, allegedly with a hand specialist. Which carries all manner of silent terrors for me as I find the anatomy of the hand and forearm crazy complicated. And being in a theatre gives me all kinds of opportunity to fail to observe some anachronistic aspect of human interaction and get bawled out for my troubles.

But the upside is I have a fair bit of post-surgical HDU nursing experience and know the general tone of surgical ward life. And in many ways my current form was birthed on the wards of an NHS hospital. I don't mean that in a creepy "buffalo bill" kind of way (well, maybe a little bit...), but who I am now is very much the product of having lived and worked in the healthcare environment for quite some time. I hope I can fit back into the pace of things like a hand in a glove. No pun intended.

And then there is the undeniable fact that surgeons are the people who reach into the very living flesh of another person and fix them. This is something incredible to be sure. I can understand where the idea that surgeons sometimes see themselves as gods might come from - If you can make someone better with your hands and bit of know-how, you could forgive yourself for being changed from the experience, too. I look forward to seeing the fixing happen first hand (again, no pun intended) and to find out how the life of surgeon actually works, when they're not writing up post-op fluids or taking down dressings at 9am (don't get me started...)

I don't know if I am a surgeon (though I have nursing friends who promise to disown me if I become one!) or a medic, and to be honest, I don't know if it's relevant for me to wonder this without more experiences to form an opinion. To pass the first year without resit or hinderance showed me I can do this, that I am med student (hear me roar!). What I make of my opportunities and experiences waits to be seen, I guess!

PS There will be Malta pictures, once Flickr stops being in a strop with me.